One game separates Sporting Kansas City from a third Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title, and this time, they will have to earn it on the road.
The final stage is set, as Kansas City defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1 to earn a date with the Philadelphia Union in the championship game at PPL Park on Sept. 30. Benny Feilhaber assisted on Soni Mustivar’s first half equalizer and scored one of his own in the 80th minute before Krisztian Nemeth put the game away five minutes later.
“We want to win. It’s what we’re all about,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes said. “It’s what we start the season off thinking about. It’s obvious, it’s very pleasing, but we’ve been here before. We know, at the end, you have to be prepared for the game.”
With a spot in the title game on the line, the semifinal opened with ome up-tempo play on both sides. Sporting came out firing on all cylinders, but it was Real Salt Lake who opened the scoring in the 25th minute. Olmes Garcia, beating the back line on an over-the-top ball from Tony Beltran, tallied his Open Cup goal with an easy slot into the back of the net.
Kansas City tied the game up nearly 10 minutes later as Soni Mustivar beat RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando to a Benny Feilhaber free kick and nodded home the equalizer. His goal – the first of his career – seemed to take the wind out of Salt Lake’s sails.
Photo: Graham Green | Prost Amerika
“When we got even at halftime, I knew the second half was going to be full of opportunities,” Vermes said. “I think one of the things that our guys sensed was that they were breathing pretty heavy going into the locker room. Our whole objective in the second half was to turn up the heat for them.”
Vermes was correct, but it took a bit of patience to produce results. The breakthrough came in the 80th minute. Open Cup goalscoring leader Dom Dwyer broke into the RSL backline, fought off a defender and fired a shot that struck the far post. Feilhaber made an alert run on the backside and smashed the follow-up into the back of the empty net for his second goal of the competition.
Feilhaber has been on fire lately having scored five goals in his last six games across all competitions, including two in the Open Cup. The MLS co-leader in assists is now the Open Cup’s co-leader in assists with four, which is one shy of the single-tournament Modern Era record.
The final dagger came as Krisztian Nemeth finished off his final of five shots. A miscue from the backline gifted the forward with a one-v-one against Rimando. Nemeth got the better of the goalkeeper, dancing around the outstretched arms and putting a shot into the near corner for his fourth goal of the tournament.
“I knew we were going to score because we were the better team,” said Nemeth, who is one goal behind Dwyer for the tournament lead.
Sporting’s victory sets up a rematch of the 2012 Semifinal match at PPL Park that KC won 2-0 en route to winning their second Open Cup title. Sporting is undefeated in Open Cup Final, while Philadelphia is hunting for its first trophy with a repeat appearance hosting the final.
Philly’s final appearance in last year’s Open Cup ended in an extra-time thriller. Seattle got the better of the Union, 3-1.
Sporting has hoisted the trophy twice, under the name of the Kansas City Wizards in 2004 (1-0 AET vs. Chicago Fire) and under their current name, they won a penalty kick shootout with the Seattle Sounders after a 1-1 draw. Both wins came in front of a home crowd, making this year’s final the first ever Final for Sporting on the road.